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Germany's L Word

It might have been good enough for absolutist monarchs, but one German official doesn't seem to think that Louis is an appropriate name for a boy.


Anyone heard of Louis Armstrong?

But what's wrong with Louis?

Not much, really. The three-month old boy from the eastern German town of Briesen near the Polish border is healthy and has two adoring parents named Jeanette and Guido Cupalla. He's also the proud owner of an exquisitely decorated nursery and an expanding collection of stuffed animals, including Rudi the Elk, Sven the Sheep and Duffy the Duck.

The only thing that's still missing is his name -- at least officially.

When the Cupallas went to register their son at city hall in nearby Frankfurt/Oder, the registrar thought that Louis alone just wasn't good enough. After all, it could be mistaken as a girl's name and that's not a good thing in German schoolyards.

Adding a manly middle name would have solved the problem, as German registrars can approve an ambiguous first name if there's a gender-explanatory second one, such as Alfred, Hans or Ludwig.

Louis XVI.

Louis XVI lost his head during the French Revolution

Forget Ludwig, since that's just German for Louis, which comes from the old German words hlut (loud, famous) and wig (fight, war) and could be translated as famous warrior -- a fitting name for quite a number of kings, few of whom had their masculinity questioned.

(Almost) all i n favor

The Cupallas don't seem to care much for middle names, but they're also refusing to go down without a fight. They've hired a lawyer and taken Louis to court, where a judge ruled that it's a fine name for a young man and ordered a birth certificate to be issued -- that's important since the young parents won't get any state child support without it.

Baby schaut überrascht

Say: Louis!

The registrar still has a few days to appeal the ruling. Maybe she should call Gerhard Müller, who helps registrars on a daily basis as the director of the name consulting department at the Society for German Language.

"We would advise not to require a second name," he said, adding that, strictly speaking, Louis was still a borderline case and no one could really blame the registrar for sticking to the letter of the law.

Welcome to Germany, Louis Ludwig Cupalla!

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